Wednesday, September 28, 2011

UCF's red bandannas honer rival’s fallen hero

UCF football players running out at the start of their game vs. Bosten College on Sept.10th. (Photo by Sebastian Arbelaez)
     Spirits and hopes were high at the campus of UCF for last Saturday’s home football game against Boston College, not only after a championship wining season last year and a dominating opening game last week, but also for a more sentimental reason.  

   UCF students gathered to honor a fallen hero from Sept. 11, 2001 on the eve of the emotional 10 year anniversary.

     The sea of students wearing black and gold also had splashes of red thrown in: red bandannas tied around arms and under baseball caps. The red bandanna was to honor Boston College alumni and lacrosse player Welles R. Crowther.

     Crowther, who was known for wearing a red bandanna given to him by his father, lost his life saving others in the World Trade Center during the attacks in New York. He helped a group of people escape the tower by leading them to the stairs, making several return trips to find more survivors. 

     Eyewitnesses said a man with a red handkerchief tied over his face led them to safety, the clue that let Crowther’s family know it was their son.

     Sadly, the 24-year-old was inside the tower as it collapsed.

     Crowther’s story aired on national networks leading up to the game. Garrett Weiss, a UCF student, was moved to action by the story.

     “When I saw the video clip on ESPN, I posted it to one of the many UCF fan groups on Facebook,” Weiss said. “Neal (Surrena) commented on it, and we both said we have to do something.”

     The two students created a Facebook group urging students to wear red bandannas to the football game in honor of the fallen hero. The group’s numbers swelled into the thousands within hours, and the duo began contacting the media to help spread the word even further.

     With so much attention around this tribute several local stores in the Orlando area actually sold out of red bandannas in the days prior to the game.

     A couple from Aloma United Methodist Church were passing out small bandannas to any student without one who wanted to show their support. 

     “It's such a great thing to honor the heroes of 9/11, and seeing UCF students show that they really care,” said church member Leigh Turner.

     “It just feels so good to show support for our team and also the other team like this,” said bandanna-clad UCF student Bailey McKay.

     The overwhelming response made Weiss proud of his fellow students. “It’s been great,” Weiss said of the response. “I’m truly happy to call myself a Knight.”

By James Tutten


(All photos courtesy of Sebastian Arbelaez / Valencia Voice)
Leigh and Susan Turner handed out red bandanas to students without them before the game.

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